Cycle of Deprivation

The Cycle of Deprivation, Cravings, Compulsive Overeating to Weight Loss

October 9, 2019

Are you in the cycle of deprivation and don't realize it?

Take this time to think about your experiences and how, if or when you deprive yourself, do you crave more? Do you overeat more? Do you negotiate more? Do you win the negotiations? Do you gain weight long term through deprivation due to “I deserve” or “I can’t do this anymore” thoughts?

How did you answer the above questions? If you answered yes to any of the questions, then this cycle of deprivation is not optimal for you or your health.

So, what can you do? Eliminate deprivation? YES!

When you are depriving, you are no longer experiencing pleasure while you eat, right? You may even feel disappointment, anger, or jealousy towards others who “can eat whatever they want.” Did you know that the level of pleasure we experience while eating has very real biochemical significances that directly affects our metabolism and digestion?

Did anyone ever tell you that half of the nutrition is what you eat, but the other half is how you eat and even where you eat?

Eliminating Deprivation and Compulsive Eating

This is what the cycle of Deprivation, Cravings to Compulsive Overeating is all about. Why is eliminating deprivation and compulsive eating so important for health and weight loss? This may sound like a simple question with a simple answer.

We are all programmed as humans to seek pleasure and avoid pain, really almost at all costs. It’s the most primitive part of the human nervous system. So, when you eat, you are seeking the pleasure/enjoyment of food, and you are avoiding the “pain” or “fear” of hunger. But here’s the trick: You can’t receive true pleasure unless you are aware that you are engaging in it; this is mindful eating. So, if you’re deprived, you will be more vulnerable to cravings, thus leading to overeating and reducing the opportunity for weight loss and improved health.

When you mindlessly eat or compulsively eat, you aren't paying attention; even though we may think we are, therefore we are reducing opportunities for weight loss.

If we are “paying attention” because it’s a “craving” and we “need” it, then most likely you are feeling compulsive, and you will potentially miss the true experience of pleasure. You’ll want more food and be left with a negative emotion and questioning; do I have a willpower problem? It’s not a willpower problem; the problem is you are not entirely confident, present, and mindful when you eat.

Our mind and bodies are not interpreting the cravings and compulsive eating with true pleasure, regardless of our emotional interpretation, and so you are left feeling emotionally “hungry.” True hunger will be met with eating nutritious food where emotional hunger leaves us “wanting more,” still hungry and not physically or emotionally satiated all leading to the dysfunctional cycle. Emotional hunger comes on strong, defining the compulsion or impulse. Physical hunger is gradual with cues.

Let’s go through an example….

You are eating your favorite ice cream cone, and you feel as if you’re deprived, maybe you “deserve it.” This thought process may start off with artificial pleasure then, lead to guilt, feeling compulsive and shameful while or after you ate.

At this point, you are not receiving the true pleasure signal, because there is guilt and possible overeating connected. With this “deprivation, craving, overeating cycle, you are actually shifting your mind and body into a stress response, which will put you in a mild degree of a digestive shutdown.

If you are in the deprivation cycle, the stress cycle, you are not absorbing nutrients fully. Stress will increase your output of cortisol (stress hormone) and insulin, which will signal your body to store fat, leading to potential weight gain, not a loss. This cycle will become destructive.

What if we enjoyed the ice cream cone? No guilt, no doubt, no craving or compulsions. Great! This is a pleasure and your mind or body will not engage in the destructive cycle.

Eliminate a Guilty Mindset

Now let’s understand how to break the cycle of deprivation, craving, to compulsion and eliminate the mindset “well I’ve already blown it so I might as well eat the whole thing,” or, “I am going to eat it all now because tomorrow I’m going to be good again.” “Monday I will be better.”

During this cycle, rarely do you “enjoy” the food you’ve decided to indulge in because you are overwhelmed with guilt and shame about the choice, (the craving) you just made, how you’ve “failed again”, and how you just don’t seem to have the “willpower to eat right.”

Start the Cycle of Happiness

Let’s now change the cycle and start the cycle of happiness, pleasure, nourishment, health, and weight loss. Sounds good right Healthy eating, eating with confidence, can have the true pleasure that feels good at the moment and afterward. This doesn’t mean that we have to omit the “forbidden foods” or the items you “crave.” It means that we are breaking the destructive compulsive cycle and finding confidence in our choices.

It is ok to have pleasure in eating no matter what it is. The key component is the outcome. If the outcome is a disappointment, shame, or feelings of compulsion with your choice, then the choice didn’t bring true pleasure, it brought “pain.” If the outcome is confidence, no shame, no disappointment, no guilt, no compulsive behaviors, then you found true pleasure.

The cycle is broken when we notice if there’s any pleasure to be had in the moment, in the situation, in the food/item choice. It’s not “bad” to enjoy your food. So be attentive, take your time, and find true pleasure in your food to break the cycle. When you start to take notice of the potential outcome (your emotional outcome), you may find you don’t actually enjoy certain foods as much as you think you do. This is where we can break the cycle of Deprivation, Cravings, Compulsive Overeating to engage in Weight Loss and Health.

Pinterest Cycle of Deprivation



Dr. Willo Wisotsky is a NY State Licensed Psychologist and is affiliated with New York Bariatric Group. Dr. Wisotsky has committed her research and clinical practice to the field of eating disorders and obesity with its related medical and mental health comorbidities. Dr. Wisotsky practices from a Behavioral Medicine approach with an emphasis on improving overall well being, increasing mindfulness, motivation, quality of life and health.
Read more articles from Dr. Wisotsky!